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An Action Research Example

At first glance, action research would seem to be common sense. When confronted with
problems or difficulties, we often make a plan, carry it through, and reflect on the results.
However, action research is a little different from common sense. It involves going beyond
the "problem in view" to try to understand why the problem appears to us in the way that it
does. Perhaps the following example will serve to illustrate this point.

Gloria is confronted with a problem in her English class. She would like to have her grade 10
students spontaneously select more of their own writing topics. They seem willing enough to
write on topics that she assigns. These are done well, but only when the students know they
will be graded. Gloria has been to several workshops that have reinforced her belief that
students should also be encouraged to find their own purposes and voices in writing. She
would like this to happen in her classes. She begins to explore and to experiment with ways
that students can be more actively involved in choosing what they will write. On the surface,
Gloria's exploring and experimenting is no different from what many teachers do when
confronted by a problem. The difference is that Gloria has decided to do this systematically
using a process of collaborative action research. She feels that students will mistrust a blanket
invitation to choose their own writing topics, since their previous writing has been assigned
by the teacher for evaluation. No other teachers have particularly encouraged the students to
find their own voices in their writing before.

Realizing that she is going to be breaking with an accepted practice, Gloria sees that she
needs to do some thinking before inviting the students to choose their own topics for writing.
So, she starts by thinking about why students do not already do this more naturally. It seems
natural enough, so why are her students so reticent? She asks herself, 'What are the sources of
this writing for marks?"

Gloria begins by recalling the writing assignments she has given since September. She finds
that she has placed a lot of weight on the students learning the proper forms: the business
letter, editorials, the short essay, and so forth. In October she agreed to cooperate with a
social studies teacher on helping the students to write a research paper as a joint English and
social studies assignment. The agreement was that as the English teacher she would mark for
usage and appropriate format. The social studies teacher would grade the content.

Informal discussions with the students about their junior high experiences reveal that they
had not been allowed to write on topics of their own choice then either. Through these
conversations and reflecting on her own teaching, a uniform picture of "teacher directed
writing": begins to emerge.

These preliminary thoughts enable Gloria to realize that there is a big distance between what
she feels she values as a teacher about student writing, and her actual practice., 'How might I
begin to narrow this gap?" she wonders.

Gloria decides to begin with small steps first. She begins by talking to the social studies
teacher about her concern over the lack of student motivated writing. The social studies
teacher is interested in the problem. In fact, he has his own related concern. He would like to
have the students more actively involved in inquiry in the social studies. Both Gloria and her
colleague agree to work together again - but this time they are working on a joint action
research project instead of cooperating on an assignment.

The two teachers decide that in order to write about a topic of their choice, students need to
have something worthwhile to say. As a first step, the social studies teacher agrees to
generate potential writing topics by promoting discussion on controversial issues in his
classroom. Gloria agrees to encourage students to write personal responses to the issue in any
format they choose to be appropriate. The social studies teacher further agrees that he will get
together with Gloria to talk about the result of this first attempt.

This example points to a number of features, which make this collaborative action research
and not everyday problem solving. Some of these features include:
1. Two teachers have joined together around a common question.
2. The question is educational.
3. A preliminary reconnaissance was carried out in order to focus the question.
4. An action step has been decided upon based upon this preliminary reconnaissance.
5. The two teachers have agree to get together to discuss the results of their first action step.
6. This first cycle of thinking, acting, and reflection may turn into a full-fledged collaborative
action research project as future cycles develop. It is this acting and reflecting together that
makes this action research. Future cycles are up to the participants, but they might include: a)
Gloria and her colleague may decide to introduce students to new writing formats, they may
begin to encourage other expressive media. b) They may find that it is appropriate to include
the students in the action research, getting them actively involved in the planning of different
writing opportunities.

An Invitation
The intent of this document is to assist you whether you are a teacher, a school-based
administrator, or working in your system's central office, in your efforts to make your school
a better place for teachers and for students. If you are interested in such a project, if you have
problems or concerns or questions about what is going on in your school or in your-
classroom, then this document can be of assistance to you as you search for answers to your

Preparing a Research Plan.
Once the problem for the research is finalized, the researcher must prepare a plan of action
called Research Proposal with meticulous care.
A research proposal is a detailed description of a proposed study designed to investigate a
given problem. It includes justification for the study, a detailed presentation of the research
steps that will be followed in collecting and analyzing the required data and a projected time
schedule for each major step. It may include proposed budget, if the investigator desires to
seek external funding. A research proposal for an action research may be brief and informal,
nevertheless it must be comprehensive.

Components of a Research Proposal
A research Proposal typically includes the following:
1. The Title of the study:
2. Introduction: Generally the rationale for undertaking the study is provided.
3. Statement of the Problem: The problem of the study with its delimitations is to be stated in
4. Review of Related Literature: A brief review of related studies may be given so as to
define the scope of the present study. But in case of action research this is not mandatory.
5. Objectives of the study: The objectives of the study should be stated in brief statement
6. Statement of the Hypothesis: An hypothesis is a tentative solution/conclusion of a problem.
Wherever possible, the statement of hypothesis is provided for giving direction to the study.
7. Method of Study:
The method of study includes:
(a) Subjects: The students or teachers over whom the study is being conducted. In action
research, unlike formal research, sampling is not generally done. Available students or
teachers are taken as subjects for study.
(b) Instruments: Tests, questionnaires, tasks or other tools that are to be used in the study
need to be specified.
(c) Design: The description of the design indicates the basic structure of the study that needs
to be stated in clear terms.
(d) Procedure: The detailed procedure of steps of conducting the study, the techniques to be
used, data collection procedures, and resource supports for the study etc. should be studied in
(e) Data Analysis: Description of statistical techniques to be employed for data analysis
should be described.
(f) Time schedule: Time schedule includes the major activities or phases of the proposed
study and a corresponding expected completion time for each activity.
(g) Budget: Budget includes expenses relating to development of tools, overhead costs, etc.

Research Report:
After completion of the data analysis and interpretation of the findings, the total exercise has
to be consolidated in the form of a report. The report records all events of the study and is
used to communicate the results to the readers. Documenting and disseminating are the two
major purposes of the research report. There are different formats of writing reports. A
general format helps wide range of readers for easy comprehension. The teacher educators
should be aware of its relevance and help the researcher to develop the skill of writing such
reports. The format generally followed, with slight variation here and there, is as follows:

The Title: The report starts with a title. Generally the title given in the proposal is adhered
to, with slight changes if it is absolutely required.
The abstract: After the title, the abstract of the study is given in a paragraph. It contains a
brief summary of the whole study i.e. the objectives, the subjects, the design and the expected
results. In case of an action research, the length of the abstract should preferably be within
150-200 words.
Statement of the Problem: The statement is meant to introduce the problem to the reader.
A brief rationale, research questions, objectives or hypotheses and delimitations are briefly
and clearly presented in this section.
Method: Under this method, the following points must be clearly stated:
(h) Subjects: The type and size of subjects taken are to be specified.
(i) Instruments: The tools and materials used in the study are to be briefly described.
(j) Procedure: The procedure followed in collecting and analyses of data are to be
systematically presented. It must also include the design of the study.

Results: The results of the study are discussed according to objectives or according to
hypotheses accompanied with tables, graphics, figures, etc. in support of the results.
Discussion: The results are then explained in terms of objectives or hypotheses explaining
the circumstances in which this could happen and whether these corroborate or contradict
other studies in the particular area. In action research, results and discussion are usually
continued under one section.
Suggestions and Recommendations: Based on the results, the implications of the study and
its utility in solving related problems or improving the existing practices should be given
which make the study comprehensive.
References: Finally, the list of references used in the study is to be given at the end of the
report, usually arranged alphabetically by the surname of the first or the sole author.

Corey, S. (1953). Action research to improve school practice. New York: Teachers College,
Columbia University. Holly, P., & Southworth, G. (1990). The developing school. London:
The Falmer Press.

Hopkins, D. (1985). A teachers guide to classroom research. Philadelphia:Open University

Jacullo-Noto, J. (1992, April). Action research and school restructuring: The lessons learned.
Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association,
San Francisco.

Kemmis, S., & McTaggart, R. (1982). The action research planner. Victoria, Australia:
Deakin University Press.

Rudduck, J. (1988). Changing the world of the classroom by understanding it: A review of
some aspects of the work of Lawrence Stenhouse. Journal of Curriculum and Supervision,
4(1), 30-42. EJ 378 725

Street, L. (1986). Mathematics, teachers, and an action research course. In D. Hustler., T.
Cassidy, & T. Cuff (Eds.). Action research in classroom and schools. London: Allen and
Unwin. ***********

"The major problems of the world today can be solved only if we improve our understanding
of human behavior" About Behaviorism
1904 - 1990